In this file, we will discuss six examples of self-surgery. The stories that follow are horrific and unusual. Although they are not for the faint-hearted, they are fascinating.
Surgery is normally a skillful and delicate procedure that involves a surgeon and a patient. However, in these stories, for many reasons, one of the actors of this classic duo was absent. In some cases, a surgeon’s dedication to understanding the human body goes far beyond the walls of the library, inspiring them to open up. In other cases, extreme situations made extreme actions the only viable option.
Self-surgery, or autosurgery, is certainly not a common practice. Especially in modern times. However, it does happen and here are six extreme examples.
- 1 1. Cardiac catheterization
- 2 Expelled from boarding school for self-surgery, he later won the Nobel Prize
- 3 2. Self-removal of the appendix by self-surgery
- 4 3. Autocaesarean by self-surgery
- 5 4. Another troublesome appendage
- 6 5. The sixth stone he removes himself
- 7 6. An egg-sized hernia
1. Cardiac catheterization
Werner Theodor Otto Forssmann was studying medicine in Germany in the 1920s when one of his professors asked him a question. This question was: Is it possible to reach the heart through veins or arteries without having to resort to traumatic surgery? At the time, the only way to access the heart was through a rather risky surgery.
An operation on a horse had worked
Forssmann came across an article describing how a veterinarian reached into a horse’s heart with a catheter via the internal jugular vein. This carries blood from the brain, face and neck to the heart. He came to the conclusion that in humans, he could use a ureteric catheter to reach the heart via the cubital vein, which lies near the surface of the arm and runs towards the heart. Excited, Forssmann told the head of the surgery department that he intended to attempt the operation on a patient.
The chief rightly worried about the patient’s safety and blocked his plans. So Forssmann asked him if he could perform the operation himself. Once again, the leader replied in the negative.
He ties up the nurse so he can perform his self-surgery
Undeterred, the young surgeon spoke with the nurse in the operating room. As the holder of the equipment, he had to have his authorization.
She was impressed with the idea and offered herself as a test subject. Despite his courage, Forssmann was still determined to perform the procedure on himself.
He ties up the nurse and pretends to make an incision on her, but he anesthetizes his own cubital vein. He managed to advance the catheter 30 centimeters into his arm before the nurse realized she had been tricked.
Forssmann asked him to get an X-ray nurse so he could follow the internal route of the catheter from his arm to his heart. While they were taking pictures of the catheter, a colleague saw what Forssmann had done and attempted to remove the catheter from his arm. However, Forssmann won the ensuing battle and continued the proceedings.
Early x-ray images showed the catheter had reached the level of his shoulder. So he kept pushing it. Eventually, he achieved his goal: he could see the end of the right ventricle cavity.
Expelled from boarding school for self-surgery, he later won the Nobel Prize
The intervention was successful, but Forssmann was fired from his boarding school. Unable to find a surgical position, he turned to urology. Then, 17 years later, along with two others, he won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his role in the invention of cardiac catheterization. Forssmann’s self-surgery was entirely in the name of medical progress.
2. Self-removal of the appendix by self-surgery
In 1960, Leonid Rogozov was part of the 6th Soviet expedition to Antarctica. He was the only medical professional on the team. Several weeks into the expedition, the 27-year-old surgeon noticed some of the telltale signs of appendicitis: fever, weakness, nausea and significant pain in his right lower abdomen. The drugs did not improve his situation. Surgical intervention was necessary. In his diary he wrote: “I didn’t sleep at all last night. It hurts like hell! A blizzard whipped my soul, moaning like a hundred jackals. »
Do an appendectomy on yourself
As winter intensified and the sea froze, Rogozov had no hope of returning to civilization for treatment. His only option was to perform an appendectomy on himself. It was an operation he had performed many times, but certainly not in these circumstances.
“There are still no obvious symptoms of impending perforation,” he writes, “but an oppressive feeling of foreboding hangs over me… This is it… I have to think about the only possible way out: to operate on myself …It’s almost impossible… but I can’t just fold my arms and give up. »
3 people for the operation
He recruited three of his colleagues to assist him: one of them held the mirror and adjusted the lamp, the other handed him the surgical instruments he requested. The third acted as a reserve in case one of the others fainted or felt nauseous.
Rogozov also told him how to resuscitate him with epinephrine in case he lost consciousness.
On May 1, 1961, at 2 a.m., after administering local anesthetic to himself, he made the first 10–12 centimeter-long incision in his abdomen. After around 30 minutes, Rogozov weakened and had to take regular breaks, but he persevered. His self-operation was successful, and after two weeks he was fully healthy again.
3. Autocaesarean by self-surgery
Most of these examples are of men with medical training, but this one bucks that trend. The woman in question had no medical training. This example of self-surgery took place in March 2000 in a remote Mexican village. Where access to health care is virtually non-existent. A 40-year-old mother of eight children was carrying her ninth child. About two years prior to this self-surgery case, the woman had lost a child during labor due to an obstruction.
After hours of unproductive labor, she feared losing the baby again. That’s why, in a desperate attempt to prevent it from happening again, she decided to have a caesarean.
Strong alcohol and kitchen knife for
First she drank three strong alcoholic drinks. Then, using a kitchen knife, she cut open her abdomen in three strokes. According to an article that describes the procedure, “she used her skills to slaughter animals.” In all, the procedure lasted an hour. Once free, the newborn immediately breathed. The woman then asked one of her children to fetch a local nurse to treat her. The nurse repositioned the woman’s intestines and stitched up the wound using a standard sewing needle and cotton.
Finally, she arrived at the nearest hospital, about an 8-hour drive away. She needed intensive care, but she recovered enough to be discharged after ten days.
4. Another troublesome appendage
Dr. Evan O’Neill Kane was the owner of Kane Summit Hospital in Pennsylvania. While waiting for his own appendix to be removed, he decided to do it himself. Although the medical staff were not very comfortable with his decision, he was their boss, and they reluctantly allowed him to perform autosurgery.
An inflamed appendix can be incredibly painful. Within 30 minutes Dr. Kane injected adrenaline and cocaine into his abdominal wall, cut open, found his appendix and removed it. In fact, he claimed he could have finished the operation faster if his staff hadn’t been so nervous.
During the operation, Dr. Kane leaned a little too far forward and his intestines slipped through the wound in his abdomen. Although his colleagues were shocked, he remained calm and simply pushed them away.
Recovered in two weeks after his self-surgery
Just two weeks later, Dr. Kane had fully recovered and was operating again. When someone asked him why he decided to self-operate, he replied that he wanted to know how he felt.
Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, he wanted to demonstrate that it was possible to undergo minor procedures without the use of relatively dangerous general anesthetics.
At 70, he self-operates for a hernia
This wasn’t Dr. Kane’s only foray into self-surgery. At 70, he decided to have his inguinal hernia repaired under local anesthesia, and this time he invited members of the press to attend. The operation was a success, but Dr. Kane never regained his full strength. He died of pneumonia within just three months.
5. The sixth stone he removes himself
Mr. Maldigny, a military surgeon, was suffering from kidney stones. At 27, he had undergone no less than five operations to remove them. Some of these operations had resulted in long-lasting complications. Also, in 1824, Maldigny decided to remove the sixth calculus himself. Using a mirror and guided by the scars from previous procedures, he opened himself up. He located the neck of the bladder and found the offending item lodged among the scars formed by previous operations. The self-operation was successful and, according to Maldigny, 3 weeks later “he was calm and cheerful as if he had never been sick”. When a seventh kidney stone appeared a few years later, he opted for minimally invasive surgery again, in which a surgeon crushes the stone through a small hole.
He did not perform the procedure himself.
6. An egg-sized hernia
Our last example of self-surgery comes to us from the Romanian surgeon Mr. Alexandre Fzaicou. He had developed an inguinal hernia, in which part of the contents of the abdominal cavity pushes through a weak point in the wall of the abdomen and forms a painful swelling in the groin area. According to Fzaicou, her hernia was the size of a chicken egg.
After many attempts to anesthetize the area with strychnine-stovaine, he finally found the right injection site in his groin and got to work. The operation took about an hour and was a success. After the procedure, Fzaicou reported headaches, insomnia and upper abdominal pain, which lasted for a week. He was back to work in just 12 days.
These stories at least remind us of the amazing things humans are capable of.